What is the definition of dehydration?
Dehydration is commonly defined as a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body. Dehydration doesn’t just affect you when you are outside sweating, or when hiking through the hot desert. Dehydration can affect you just as easily when going through your normal daily activities.
In this blog post we’ll cover information on dehydration signs and symptoms, effects of dehydration on your body, and dehydration tips/prevention.
What are the symptoms of being dehydrated?
The symptoms that we experience during dehydration can vary depending on the person but there are some common offenders that most of us experience including a headache, dry skin, darker or yellower colored urine, and dry mouth. Some other common signs and symptoms include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- A low volume of urine with a darker yellow color than normal
- Tired or sleepy
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramping
How much water should you drink every day to stay hydrated?
To keep your body hydrated, how much water should you drink each day? That is a question we are asked on a weekly basis at Foothills Sports Medicine. The answer to this can and will vary with almost every individual. Activity, size, environment, age, medications, and type of fluids can all affect the answer to how much fluid you need to take in a day. Most physicians, when pushed, say you need 8 to10 glasses of water per day.
Of course, that leads to the next question. How big of a glass? Well, most juice glasses are about eight ounces. So, eight, eight-ounce glasses of water equates to 64 ounces a day. That’s about two big gulps of water from your local convenience store.
Other common questions include:
- How does my shape and size affect what I need?
- What if I sweat a lot?
- What if I take diuretics?
- What if I work out a lot?
One rule of thumb you can use is: drink half your weight in ounces of water a day. If you weigh 100 pounds then, most likely, 50 ounces of water a day is enough. If you weigh 160 pounds then 80 ounces is probably enough. Even then, no answer will be perfect for everyone.
Hypothalamus Function and Location
What part of the brain controls thirst? Well, our body has a built-in thirst regulator called the hypothalamus that kicks in when it feels the body’s water levels are becoming too low. It will tell us we are thirsty and need to drink something. You might think, ‘great, I will simply drink when I’m thirsty and I will be ok.’ But, that isn’t exactly the case.
If you are taking in around 60 ounces of water, and you’re not very active, you are probably okay. However, if you are drinking caffeinated beverages, you will not be getting the hydration necessary to function. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means you will basically counteract whatever hydrating fluids you drink. Even then, it isn’t that simple.
The hypothalamus tends to quit working as well in our later years. As your hypothalamus becomes less responsive, you will begin to not feel thirsty as often. In these cases, people tend to hydrate when they feel dry mouth, also known as cottonmouth. Unfortunately, a small sip of water can rid this symptom while not being enough to replace what your body is actively losing.
Patients often say they drink water consistently all through the day. However, if they are only taking sips of water all day, then they are hardly getting enough fluid. A hydration tip I give patients is to try drinking out of something measurable, such as a 32-ounce water bottle, and see if they can drink two of these in a day. Many patients find out that they have been drinking way less than they thought.
Effects of Dehydration on the Body
A cardiologist friend of mine calls dehydration the “80-year-old dropout.” Patients are admitted to his ER complaining of dizziness, slurred speech, rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and sometimes have passed out. The patient would immediately have been put on a saline drip after being transported to the hospital and about three hours later would be ready to go home feeling normal and healthy.
Due to the commonality of this event, the doctor began looking at echocardiograms he ran on many of these patients when they were first emitted. The results: the heart and major arteries had shrunk down. However, echocardiograms ran later in the day, after the patient had been on IV saline solution, showed normal heart and artery size.
His explanation was that the shrinking of the heart and arteries, as well as the thickening of the blood, were all due to lack of water. Which, in response, the arteries would then squeeze down as the heart begins to pump faster attempting to increase the pressure in order to move the thicker blood. This can become so severe that a person could not get enough blood to their head, leading them to pass out. So, to avoid this and the IV of saline solution, stay hydrated as best you can!
How To Tell If You Are Dehydrated: The Skin Test
By pinching the skin on the top or backside of your hand you can easily check whether you should be drinking more water. If your skin bounces back to a quick, smooth position then you are less likely dehydrated. If your skin slowly goes back flat to your hand and leaves a crease for a few seconds, then it’s probably time to find some water.
We hope this information on dehydration and the accompanying hydration tips help you stay active and healthy this summer! If you’re experiencing a pain that is keeping you from being active, we can help. Schedule an appointment with us to get started.